Buzzfeed News is reporting this morning what I wanted to report last week but couldn’t verify: Prior to V.P. Mike Pence’s visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 among the church’s orchestra and choir. I had heard this from two twitter accounts but could not get primary source verification, so I didn’t run with it.
Buzzfeed reporters were able to get that confirmation and went with the story today. The video of the event shows that the choir was singing and the orchestra was playing without masks. The congregation was close together and the only real precautions were taken by Pence. You don’t need to watch the whole video to see what I mean:
Texas is experiencing a scary surge in cases and V. P. Pence should have shown leadership by canceling his appearance and urging Robert Jeffress to hold an online event. Just last week, in neighboring Arkansas, fellow evangelical Governor Asa Hutchinson told the public that the churches who are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks are the ones using masks and social distancing. He identified by name nine churches on a naughty list of churches which had not been following guidelines and thus experiencing more cases of COVID-19.
Jeffress’ church was a clinic in how not to do things. Singing and playing wind instruments are effective ways of spreading a virus. The congregation was not spaced properly and it appears not all were wearing masks. Given that some of the orchestra members have been infected (although none of those members were there), it is possible that some of the orchestra members playing that Sunday had been exposed in prior rehearsals.
While it appears that most church leaders are trying to take COVID-19 seriously, I don’t see how it helps to have so-called leaders disregard best practices. I have been tracking church outbreaks for just over a month and it is starting to get a little hard to keep up with. I count 48 churches as of this writing. As the pandemic enlarges in the U.S., it may be difficult to keep a complate count.
In any case, having church as normal can be a super spreading event and leaders need to heed best practices while still caring for their flocks.
Today was Commencement at Grove City College where I teach psychology. We had a super graduating class of Seniors who are going to do great things in their professions and graduate schools around the world. It was a good day for them, even with all of the extra security measures designed to keep us and Vice President Pence safe. My appreciation goes out to the secret service and other law enforcement agencies who participated.
Vice President Pence gave a motivational speech with the theme of leadership. He exhorted the graduates to be leaders. Then, contrary to what I thought his speech was going to be about, he invoked Donald Trump. Watch:
You know, you need to look no further than a friend of mine as an example of leadership and perseverance. The 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.
Since the first day of our administration, and in the great tradition of this college, our president has been freeing the American economy by rolling back the hand of big government, he’s been expanding educational choice opportunities to some of our most disadvantaged children. He’s been rebuilding our military, restoring safety to our streets and I can’t tell you how proud I am to be Vice President to a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of life and all of the God given liberties in the Constitution of the United States.
And as the president said just about a week ago in a ceremony just like this, and I quote, ‘nothing worth doing ever came easy, following your convictions,’ he added, ‘means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the courage to do what’s right.’ So I say to all the graduates here today, don’t fear criticism. Have the humility to listen to it, learn from it, and most importantly, push through it.
I am not going to editorialize much; I think this speaks for itself. I also trust our graduates to compare what was said today with what they have been taught over the past four years and choose well.
The entire speech has been posted on Youtube:
Tonight at the Baccalaureate ceremony, the signs of V.P. Mike Pence’s arrival were all around. Security will be tight tomorrow.
Reaction here has been on the positive side but some students and faculty have registered their displeasure with the regular politically oriented (GOP) Commencement speakers at GCC. Others are upset that anyone from the Trump administration was invited.
Today, a current student had an opinion piece expressing objections to the Pence invitation published by the New York Times.
My understanding is that demonstrations may happen but I doubt they will be large. I plan to post a report tomorrow afternoon.
Pittsburgh media filed this report at 11pm.
Yesterday, VP Pence said Trump acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General to fire FBI Director James Comey. Watch:
First, Deputy AG Rosenstein didn’t directly recommend Comey’s firing and today, Trump says he had already planned to fire Comey without the recommendation, contradicting the White House statement and Pence.
Amazing interview where Trump contradicts HIS OWN LETTER FIRING COMEY and everything the White House said yesterday pic.twitter.com/voFo9wfwvV
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2017
Statement from the Press Secretary
Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The FBI is one of the Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” said President Trump.
A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately.
# # #
On May 3, Sean Spicer said Comey had Trump’s confidence.
We can only hope that the firing of Comey does not create a barrier to the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign and associates.